During the first half of the semester we read novels from the nineteenth century and after reading our first twentieth century novel, We by Zamyatin, differences between the two century can be noted. Firstly, the structure of the novel differs from those we have read. Unlike traditional chapters told by a third person narrator, We is told through a series of records narrated by our main character D-503. The records are brief and are basically series of stream of consciousness. I sort of see this structure as a combination of Pechorin’s diary and Raskolnikov’s episodes of dementia.
Secondly what struck me was the way Zamyatin characterizes his characters. Forget detailed physical descriptions that we saw with Tolstoy, Zamyatin gives his characters, who are named with a single a letter and a number, one or two traits i.e. O has the wrists and the color pink. In this sense, Zamyatin downplays his characters which I guess could represent the idea that the communal is greater than the individual; the description of the One State trumps that of the ciphers. This lack of physical characterization made the novel harder for me to read as I, a visual learner, had a hard time envisioning what was going on.
Combine the stream of consciousness with the lack of vivid imagery I found reading We much more challenging than anything we read from the 19th century. Am I the only one?